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Icy roads prove fatal: Several rollovers reported along stretch of U.S. Highway 2

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Pioneer Staff Report

BEMIDJI — Icy roads and blowing and drifting snow on Thursday caused numerous accidents and rollovers near Bemidji, with at least one fatality, as a winter storm from the Red River Valley moved into the region.

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The Minnesota State Patrol reported an Arkansas woman was killed in a one-vehicle rollover at about 1:45 p.m. on U.S. Highway 2 in Bemidji.

According to the patrol, a 2002 Chevrolet SK1 driven by Olen Defoure, 36, of Bald Knob, Ark., was traveling east on Highway 2 at about 1:45 p.m. Thursday when he went off the icy road at mile marker 109 and the vehicle rolled. A passenger, Victoria Preller, 24, also of Bald Knob, was killed in the accident, the patrol said. Neither Defoure or Preller were wearing their seat belts, the patrol said. Defoure was also taken to the hospital, but no injury report was listed by the patrol.

Two other rollovers were reported along that same stretch of Highway 2 on Thursday. At about 3:30 p.m., a Laporte woman and two children escaped serious injury in a one-vehicle rollover near the Fifth Street ramp.

According to the patrol, Danae Johnson, 28, was westbound on Highway 2 in a 2000 Chevrolet Suburban, at mile marker 113, when the vehicle went off the icy road and rolled. Johnson was transported to Sanford Bemidji Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries, the patrol said. Two children, ages 7 and 4, were not injured in the accident, and all three were wearing seat belts, the patrol said.

Earlier Thursday, at about 1 p.m., a 71-year-old Solway woman was injured in another one-vehicle rollover — at mile marker 111 — on Highway 2, the patrol said.

Maureen O’Brien, 71, was traveling east in the right lane and as she was coming around the curve, her 2005 Dodge Caravan went into the ditch and rolled, the patrol said.

O’Brien, who was wearing her seat belt, was transferred to Sanford Bemidji Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries, the patrol said.

Thursday’s accidents came as a result of a winter storm system moving through the area after a severe blizzard hit the Red River Valley late Wednesday into Thursday. Several roads were closed — Highway 2 from Crookston to East Grand Forks, Minn., was closed and re-opened several times Thursday — and no travel was advised for much of northwest Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. By Thursday evening, most of the roads were listed in fair driving condition in and around Bemidji, while difficult and hazardous conditions were reported near Thief River Falls and to the west toward the North Dakota border.

According to the National Weather Service, there’s a chance for more snow Friday morning, with a high temperature of 10 degrees but with the potential of wind chills as low as 27 below.

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